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5 most popular innovation stories in Houston this week

A new cohort of cancer therapeutics innovators led this week's top Houston innovation stories. Photo courtesy of TMC

Editor's note:Another week has come and gone, and it's time to round up the top headlines from the past few days. Trending Houston tech and startup news on InnovationMap included a Houston unicorn raising more funding, TMC Innovation's new cohort, innovators to know, and more.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Anouk van Pol of INGU Solutions, Eric Tait of Urban Capital Network, and Chris Howard of Softeq. Courtesy photos

In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from venture capital to energy — recently making headlines in Houston innovation. Click here to continue reading.

Houston cancer therapeutics accelerator announces newest cohort

Twenty investigators and early-stage biotechnology companies have been named to the latest Texas Medical Center's cohort. Courtesy of TMC

Texas Medical Center Innovation named 20 oncology startups to the 2022 cohort of its groundbreaking Accelerator for Cancer Therapeutics this week in celebration with the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act.

The group of Texas-based companies and academic researchers will participate in 9 months of clinical and business development education through the accelerator, with the goal of reaching new milestones, developing strategic plans for their companies, commercializing, and preparing for clinical trials. At the close of the session, the companies will be eligible to apply for grants and pitch investors and corporate partners.

"With the ongoing pandemic, which poses more threat to at-risk populations, it has never been more important to mature novel cancer therapeutics," says Emily Reiser, associate director of TMC Innovation, in a statement. "Any drug currently on the market is developed in the spirit of scientific discovery. The importance of developing innovative solutions is not just something that drives TMCi and our Accelerators, and it is at the heart of our ability to improve patient care and outcomes." Click here to continue reading.

University of Houston: What should a faculty inventor’s role be in their startup?

Should you lead the company that's taking your technology to commercialization? Maybe. But maybe not. Graphic byMiguel Tovar/University of Houston

Are you a faculty member at a university? Are you a researcher with an invention that you want to monetize? Do you want to start your own startup company? If you answered yes to these questions, another question you need to consider is, should you leave your research position at the university to lead your company or get out of the way entirely?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. Some faculty inventors want to leave and launch a company based on their research. In most cases, faculty members want to keep their university roles. What is the right decision for you? Click here to continue reading.

Houston group launches equitable fund of funds to increase impact at a lower barrier of entry

Urban Capital Network have launched a fund-of-funds to allow investors to tap into later-stage startups at a much lower barrier of entry. Images via urbancapitalnetwork.com

Early stage investing has always been a tried and true way for investors to get in on the ground floor of a tech company for a smaller financial commitment — but it's risky. Urban Capital Network has created an alternative.

UCN was founded to democratize investment opportunities and help investors of color find investment opportunities all while cutting their teeth as novice investors. Lenny Saizan, co-founder of UCN, says that its Horizon Fund II allows for UCN investors to get involved in venture-backed companies at a much lower price tag.

Saizan explains that UCN members are in that lower tier of accredited investors who don't necessarily have $250,000 or $1 million to invest in a fund — but they have $15,000 to $25,000 to invest.

"We allow more people to participate in venture funds or venture-backed opportunities," Saizan tells InnovationMap. "Instead of going into one deal at a very early stage, you’re getting in a later stage where the deal is more de-risked and you have a better chance of returns." Click here to continue reading.

Houston-founded unicorn closes $240M round of funding led by Dallas firm

Cart.com, a Houston-founded unicorn ecommerce company, has closed its latest round of funding. Photo via cart.com

Cart.com, which moved its headquarters from Houston to Austin in December but still maintains a local presence, just landed $240 million in equity and debt funding.

Legacy Knight Capital Partners, the equity investment arm of the Legacy Knight Multifamily Office, led the equity round, with participation from Citi Ventures, Visa, and other Fortune 100 companies. J.P. Morgan and TriplePoint Capital provided the debt financing. Since being founded in 2020, Cart.com has secured $380 million in funding.

“What [CEO Omair Tariq] and the team at Cart.com have accomplished in the last 14 months is nothing short of remarkable. They have proven they have the ability to rapidly execute on their vision of building the first fully end-to-end e-commerce platform at massive scale,” David Sawyer, chief operating officer and managing partner of Legacy Knight, says in a news release. Click here to continue reading.

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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